July 4, 2011 ought to be more than a day to celebrate the birth of our beloved nation; it ought to be a day to remember the foundation on which our country was established and on which it has since developed. Our founders provided this foundation with this phrase in the Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
Two hundred and thirty-five years have passed since our founding fathers signed their names in passionate support of these words, yet the meaning of this illustrious phrase has yet to be fully realized. We cannot claim that “all men are created equal” and simultaneously treat certain citizens unequally. We cannot emphatically declare our country “the land of the free,” and in the same breath deny fundamental liberties to millions of Americans.
In Congress, we are currently finding ways to make sure that all Americans enjoy the same rights as their fellow citizens, further promoting the meaning of our founders' eloquence. I am proud of my record in support of civil rights and equality and I haverecently earned an "A" rating from the NAACP and a 100% Civil Rights Score from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and from the Human Rights Commission. There is still work to be done in bringing about equality for all Americans. We must work to afford all of our children an equal opportunity to receive a proper education. We must strive to ensure that all Americans are equally able to obtain health care. I will continue to work so that the principle of equality on which our nation was founded might be fully realized.
Half of our nation’s population has been fighting for equal rights for decades. Women have come a long way in the last 100 years, to the point where we have women who have and are running for President with legitimate chances of winning major party nominations. However, there are still too many women not being paid the same wages as their male counterparts. In the previous Congress, we passed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to help bring equal pay for equal work for women. I am a co-sponsor of Equal Rights Amendment, which originally passed Congress in the 1970s, and was only three states away from ratification before the deadline for ratification expired in 1982.
June was Gay & Lesbian Pride Month, and members of the LGBT Community continue to fight for their inalienable rights. No American should be deprived of the same rights enjoyed by others, but that is exactly what has been happening for far too long. This is the latest front in America's struggle for civil rights for all of our citizens. On June 24, 2011, the New York State Legislature passed same-sex marriage in New York State. This action signified a pivotal step in defense of the equality for which our country’s first patriots fought so many years ago.
I have long worked to assure that the members of the LGBT community be afforded the same rights as their fellow citizens. I was one of the few members of Congress to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and strongly feel that its repeal is past due. I also voted for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) and was very pleased to see this unfair policy repealed in December 2010.
My votes in favor of equal rights have been votes in favor of the immortal words of the Declaration of Independence. Without equal rights for all Americans, the words of the Declaration of Independence that we hold so dear are nothing more than that—words. We cannot simply hail this language within this document—we must live by it. Only when we do this can we claim to enjoy the “inalienable rights” that our founding fathers stood for and our forefathers fought for.
The American Revolution ended over 200 years ago, but it is up to all of us to carry on the cause of our country’s brave revolutionaries. On this Independence Day, let us not only celebrate the strides towards equality that we have already made; let us also be energized and inspired by the memories of our forefathers to continue striving towards this goal. We should also not forget the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice defending our liberties, regardless of race, creed, color, religion or sexual orientation. They all fought to earn and preserve the American Dream, as Americans, for Americans. Today, and into the future, we must continue working towards achieving the goal of equality for all Americans.
I am out with my kids today, but intend to write a response to this "inspiring" email later. It inspires, but not in the way he intended...heh heh heh ;-).